As a pioneer of mindfulness-based approaches to mental health recovery, Windhorse Community Services has been a leader in engaging complex mental health challenges in Boulder since 1981. Then in Y2K, a Windhorse client began to wonder how to transition back into society after experiencing mental health recovery. It was her idea to develop a transitional work program to assist those in the community recovering from mental health difficulties. Thus, Mindful Works was born.
“We wanted to create a lasting social enterprise, which is not an easy thing to accomplish. Mindful Works looked at various work program opportunities like starting a food truck or creating a laundromat. Initially, we began doing curbside pickup of recyclables,” said Susan Williams, Executive Director. “Then we had the opportunity to work with someone with a strong background in tailoring and sewing with a specialty in meditation cushions. We reached out to Naropa University, and they were interested in purchasing these cushions from us. From there, Mindful Works really took off.”
Today, Mindful Works is ever-expanding, creating not only meditation cushions but also yoga bolsters, repurposed billboard bags, poufs, jewelry pouches and more. They have also begun baking desserts and treats for catering and sale. “The goal is to help set up those with mental health obstacles for a traditional job market by acquiring hard skills like sewing and baking - as well as soft skills like showing up to work on time and connecting with others,” said Savannah Waters, Marketing Intern.
Savannah joined the team because she wanted to work for an organization with a moral purpose. “I want to help change the outlook the world has on mental health and make the narrative a more positive and open one. The work environment here is so lovely - everyone really supports each other.”
Similarly, Kylie Stetler, Seamstress and Product Manager, wanted to find meaning in her work life. “It’s important to create spaces where people feel safe and supported. I have a background in fashion design, and prior to this role I was also a pastry chef. Being at Mindful Works has been the perfect opportunity to take my passions and use them to help those overcoming mental health barriers. Being able to see positive changes in others is really incredible.”
Apprentices of the work program are grateful for the chance to learn new skills and make new friends at Mindful Works. “My favorite part of the job is the people,” said John Brice, apprentice. “The people here are so friendly, and I’m fairly new to Boulder and needed to meet others. I had no idea how to sew before coming here, and I’ve also learned how to become a salesman. These skills will take me far - I’m thinking about using my degree in Strategic Communication and Marketing for future jobs.”
Similar to John, apprentice Helen Smith loves the people at Mindful Works. “Being here gives me the chance to be creative instead of feeling squashed. We get to eat fantastic food and learn new skills. Everyone here is fabulous and has their own little way of looking at things. But everyone, everywhere you go, is saying positive things and interacting in positive ways.”
To support Mindful Works, order online or contact them directly to acquire a handmade artisan product. You can also find them at various markets around town like the Boulder County Farmers Market every second Saturday of the month. Follow them on social media (@mindfulworksboulder), and donate leftover fabric scraps to their cause by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“No one really aspires to graduate our program and go into sewing full-time, but our apprentices learn so many valuable skills with us. We give people the opportunity to practice working as a team, building stamina and managing symptoms at work,” said Susan. “Meaningful activity is evidence-based to be a central tenant to mental recovery. By providing a sense of positive purpose to others, Mindful Works can help transform the Boulder community.”
Mindful Works Team
Windhorse Community Services has been a leader in engaging mental health challenges in Boulder. Mindful Works was born out of this Boulder institution.